Category Archives: Research & Analysis

Learn About Indiana’s Youngest Children with the 2019 ELAC Annual Report!

2019-elac-annual-reportIndiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) released its 2019 Annual Report. Each year, ELAC completes a needs assessment on the state’s early childhood education system and then recommends solutions.

We want to share some quick highlights and key takeaways from this year’s needs assessment.  ELAC focuses on ensuring early childhood education is accessible, high-quality, and affordable to all families. 

Are Children Ages 0-5 Receiving High-Quality Care?

  • Of the 506,257 children in Indiana ages 0-5, 64% need care because all parents are working. This includes both working parents who are single and households where both parents work outside the home. Figure 9
  • Of those children who need care, only 40% are enrolled in known programs. The other three fifths of children receive informal care—from a relative, friend, or neighbor.
  • Of the young children who need care, only 16% are enrolled in high-quality programs. A high-quality early childhood education program not only ensures that children are safe, but also supports their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. 

Are Children in Vulnerable Populations Receiving High-Quality Care?

  • Indiana makes funding assistance available for early childhood education for children from low-income families.
  • Indiana does not collect data on children in other vulnerable populations, such as children in foster care and children affected by the opioid epidemic.
  • Overall, due to lack of data, Indiana does not know the kind of care received by children in vulnerable populations.

What Trends Are There in Early Childhood Education?

  • Since 2014, Indiana has made progress by enrolling more of the children who need care in known early childhood education programs. 
  • Over the past 5 years, Indiana has consistently enrolled fewer infants and toddlers than preschoolers in known and high-quality programs. Figure 31
  • Compared to 2012, more early childhood education programs are participating in Paths to QUALITYTM, Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system.
  • In addition, significantly more programs have earned high-quality designations of either Level 3 or Level 4 since 2012.

What Trends Are There in the Early Childhood Education Workforce?

  • Indiana’s early childhood education workforce is more diverse than the K-12 workforce but not as experienced.
  • Nationally, the early childhood education workforce earns $4-$7 less per hour than the average hourly wage of all occupations.

What is the Unmet Need in the Early Childhood Education System?

  • There has been a persistent need in early childhood education programs for more available spots for infants and toddlers.
  • Despite overall improvements, there are still some communities in Indiana with no high-quality early childhood education programs.
  • The tuition cost of high-quality early childhood education programs remains unaffordable, and the available financial assistance for low-income families is insufficient.

How Can I Find Out More?

  • Read the 2019 ELAC Annual Report, which includes statewide data on Indiana.
  • ELAC also publishes an interactive dashboard that allows you to learn more about specific data points. You can also easily present data to stakeholders.
  • The interactive dashboard contains both state- and county-level data. Use the map to select your county, and hover over the data to learn more!

2019-elac-interactive-dashboard

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support ELAC’s work by pulling this needs assessment and interactive report together!

Does your organization, agency, or coalition need to better understand your community or a key issue, but you don’t know how to get started? We are skilled in collecting quantitative data from multiple data sources and pulling it together in a visually-appealing, user-friendly report. Contact us to learn how we can help you complete your next needs assessment!

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How A Needs Assessment Can Support Your Head Start Program

Most organizations that receive federal or state funding and even private funding are required to complete some type of needs assessment. This might be part of their grant application or annual program update. The purpose of the needs assessment (which we talk more about this here and here) is to help organizations align their services to meet the needs of their targeted population and geographic service area.

Head Start and Early Head Start grantees are one type of grant program that must complete a comprehensive needs assessment every five years as part of their grant application. They are also required to complete an annual needs assessment update. In addition to the local grantees, each state has a Head Start Collaboration Office. They too are required to complete an annual needs assessment based on federal priorities to inform their annual plan and funding priorities.Blog Image

Transform Consulting Group has worked with Head Start and Early Head Start programs at every level from the local grantee level to the state collaboration office and even the federal Office of Head Start. With these partners, we have helped with writing grant applications, managing data systems, completing strategic plans, supporting implementation of new grants, and of course completing needs assessments. Based on our breadth of experience with Head Start, we have some tips to share in how to best complete and leverage your Needs Assessment:

  1. Gather Quantitative Data

The 5-Year Community Assessment must include a variety of data points such as community demographics, data about Head Start eligible children and families, education, health, social services, nutrition, housing, child care, transportation, community resources, and the list goes on. During the other 4 years of the grant period, local grantees must do a Community Assessment Annual Update. This update includes any significant changes in data around key areas such as the availability of pre-kindergarten, child and family homelessness, and other shifts in demographics and resources.

  1. Gather Stakeholder Feedback

We’ve talked a lot about stakeholder engagement in past blogs (here and here). The 5-Year Community Assessment includes gathering input from community partners, parents, and staff. We do this through the use of surveys (electronic or paper), focus groups, and interviews. This is a great opportunity to hear from your key stakeholders, build buy-in and engagement, and strengthen existing relationships.

  1. Create Visually Appealing Needs Assessment Reports

We pride ourselves on creating visually appealing reports that are user-friendly for all audiences and talk about it in this blog.  You can see examples of our Head Start needs assessment reports here and here. We have also taken these reports to create fact sheets about the need for services across different service areas or to summarize the impact / footprint of the Head Start and Early Head Start program.

In more recent years, we have started developing data dashboards that summarize the community needs assessment. Organizations are putting these dashboards on their website like this example here.  By doing this, Head Start programs can be a great resource in the community of comprehensive data about young children and families that other partners can use for planning purposes.Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 12.04.29 PM

  1. Share and Use Your Data

After your organization has invested all of this time and effort in completing your needs assessment you want to make sure you use it to drive programming and services. This is where having a visually appealing report, some infographic facts and / or a data dashboard are so important. It makes sharing them internally with your staff and parents as well as externally with partners that much easier! We love to share this information at policy council meetings, family events, and community partner meetings.  

Does this process sound overwhelming to you? Do you feel like you are in data overload? We can help! You don’t have to do this alone.

Head Start programs, like many federally funded programs, are tasked to track and monitor a lot of data and information especially for compliance purposes. Evidence can be seen of that in the reporting requirements of the needs assessments, along with other state and federal regulations. Most Head Start programs do not have one primary database, so data is often stored in many ways across several systems and staff members. TCG can help review these systems, provide recommendations, assist in analyzing data, and offer training to staff about data systems and best practices around data collection and analysis.

We have the Head Start knowledge and the data expertise to support your needs assessment  and data management needs. Consider how TCG can help your Head Start program today. Contact us to learn more!

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Are You Data Literate?

Recently the TCG team participated in a data visualization challenge at the Indy Big Data Conference, and this experience has led me to writing a blog on data literacy.  What is data literacy? Merriam Webster defines being literate as “having knowledge or competence”, and being competent with data is a foundational skill we all need in this age of big data.

Now, you don’t have to love math or know how to write code to be data literate.  What you need to be comfortable doing is asking what, how, why, and so what of data.

  • What data is being collected?  (e.g., age, county, number of individuals with a college degree)
  • How is the data being collected?  (e.g., application, agency records, census survey)
  • Why?  Especially when it comes to data analysis, don’t be afraid to ask why.  (e.g., Why did you focus on this subset of the population? Why were those data points analyzed?)
  • So what?  (e.g., How does the number of individuals without a college degree impact our strategy to address this issue?)    

For TCG’s presentation (check it out here), we reviewed multiple datasets provided by the Indiana Management Performance Hub.  We had to learn what each variable meant, how the values were determined or collected, and why those variables were important to those data sources.  Figuring out the data meant learning about workforce development measures and industry codes. Analysis of the data involved selecting certain data to focus on and incorporating different views and additional data to answer the questions we had.  Listing our recommendations answered the “so what” for the data we chose to analyze and present.

Data presentation

Data literacy is very important to the data visualization world as well.  Before making the data “pretty” with charts or data visualization software (like Tableau which we featured in this blog), you have to know your data and know your metrics.  That way when you see your dashboard or charts showing 1,000 current donors with a 25% retention rate from last year, you will know if that is correct.  Programs like Tableau (which imports your data to visualize) can’t tell you if you’re creating the right chart with the right variables. It takes the same level of critical thinking that is applied to the data itself.       

Common Mistakes with Data Visualization:

  • Not spot checking data to make sure things are correct (such as population totals).
  • Too much data.  More is not always better, and lots of data can be overwhelming and may take away from the goal of the analysis.
  • Selecting the wrong variables.  A chart can be created to compare apples to oranges, but it may not be of any value.Data Literacy Tableau
  • Not using percentages when comparing groups with different totals.  This is one I see quite often and is a reminder to always question data. In the example below, Marion County (center of map) looks like it has the most young children and the most young children in poverty because Marion County has the largest population.  If you look at percent of young children in poverty, other counties show just as high of a percentage as Marion County.
  • Lacking context.  Without knowing the source of the data or data totals, the statistics may be less convincing.  Industry knowledge is also important to context in order to visualize the most valuable data and to answer “So what?”.  

Not sure how comfortable you are with data?  Start with your own! Ask questions and see what you can uncover.  Check out some of our favorite sources of data that can add to your analysis.  As you dig in, Transform Consulting Group is ready to assist with our evaluation, research, and strategic planning services as well as data visualization training and products.  Contact us today to ask questions and learn more!

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4 Tips for Getting Started with Tableau

Have you ever seen beautiful charts or dashboards that make the data “pop” in the report or presentation and wondered how could you do that?  At Transform Consulting Group, we have made a lot of charts and graphs to help our clients evaluate their programs and understand important information in a way that is easy to digest. We work to find the most efficient ways to assist our clients with the data that they need to make informed, timely decisions. 2016 Percent of Annual Income a family pays for high-quality careOne way to do this is staying current with data analysis and visualization software.

The data visualization software that we are crushing on these days is Tableau. It is essentially an accelerated version of “pivot tables”.  If any of you are familiar with Excel, then you know pivot tables.  A pivot table is a tool that we use to determine the relationship between two or more data points. For example, when we were working with TeenWorks, a college and career readiness program, to see if their students are enrolling and persisting in college, then we might want to dig deeper in understanding who the students are that are not persisting, what schools are they enrolled in, what type of school is it (public or private, 2-year or 4-year), what is their major, and what is their gender and other socioeconomic statistics.

These additional data points help tell the story of what change is occurring and how that could impact the program model, partnership development, target clients, professional development and so many other factors.  Tableau helped our team answer these questions and more to better understand the relationship of our client’s program to its intended outcomes.pg 19


Recently, Transform Consulting Group used Tableau to complete a statewide needs assessment on Indiana’s youngest children ages 0-5 by pulling together data from multiple agencies and partners. The analysis resulted in the Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) help
2017 Annual Report. The intended audience for the report are policy makers who do not have a lot of time to read technical reports, but Tableau equipped out team with creating a visually-appealing report that draws attention to the key findings.

These are our top four tips of getting started with Tableau:

  1. Use Tableau support. There are many support options through Tableau. One option is the Tableau Community, which allows users to connect and ask or answer questions for each other. This can be a quick way to find answers to a common problem or question that users have.  For example, we were havProjected Employment Needsing difficulty with one of our state maps and Tableau Community had a solution that we were able to implement.
  2. Another option is to contact a Tableau consultant through Tableau. A consultant can provide customized personal training and guidance, which might be especially helpful for a new staff person using Tableau and/or a special project (like a dashboard). The consultant won’t do the work for you but is available along the way for further questions and guidance as you complete your project.  
  3. Organize your data. Tableau can be picky about how the original data is organized and certain charts require different data formatting. Before getting started, it is helpful to organize your data into one spreadsheet. Transform Consulting Group prefers to use Google Sheets because it allows multiple people to work in a document and view changes real time, but Excel or Numbers could also work.
  4. Work with a Tableau expert.  Your project might be beyond the capacity (time and knowledge) of your current team, so partnering with a group or individual who has used Tableau might be a more efficient and effective solution.

If your organization needs help with analyzing and visualizing your data, contact Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  We were not asked by Tableau to write this post.  This is our own opinion.

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When do you need a Feasibility Study?

Whether you call it a feasibility study, a needs assessment, or a readiness assessment, you typically need one when your organization is looking to take on a large initiative such as a capital fundraising campaign, adding a new program or service, or expanding into a new market.  When do you need a feasibility study?

At Transform Consulting Group (TCG), we perform feasibility studies that often include the following steps:  gathering stakeholder feedback, surveying the board of directors, scanning the environment, completing a financial analysis, and conducting a community assessment.  There is a lot to consider when taking on a large initiative, and each feasibility study is going to look slightly different depending on what is being considered and how your organization operates.

Our team has served numerous clients during their feasibility study process. Here’s a look at those projects and how the client decided it was time for a feasibility study:

  • Meeting Community Need

Community leaders in Jay County wanted to investigate the feasibility of converting an old elementary school building into an early childhood center. The Portland Foundation hired our team to facilitate a site analysis of existing school buildings, assess the existing early childhood education landscape, and create a marketing and business plan for implementation.Portland Foundation Feasibility Study Cover

  • Launching a New Program/Service

Shepherd Community Center wanted to see if their organization and service area were a good fit before adopting the Center for Working Families program model. For this engagement, we held focus groups, facilitated internal and external assessments, and completed a logic model to identify the resources, inputs, outputs and outcomes aligned to support the implementation of the Center for Working Families program.

  • Assessing Annual Performance

All Head Start organizations are required to submit annual needs assessments to inform their strategic plan goals and objectives.  The Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office hired our team to perform their report that shows how Indiana Head Start grantees compare locally and nationally and how well the state is responding to federal priority areas.  

  • Relocating or Opening a New Location

Before you consider relocating or opening an additional location in a new community, we recommend 3 steps to determine feasibility in this blog.

  • Fundraising

Our funding analysis and fund development plan are two fundraising strategies that might be part of your feasibility study.  If you’re looking to launch a capital campaign, they are two strategies that should definitely be incorporated as well as interviews with major donors and staff and surveying the board of directors.

Completing a feasibility study isn’t a quick task, nor should it be.  Make sure your organization is ready to go before committing valuable resources to a project or campaign.  Need assistance with one or more elements of your feasibility study? Not sure where to start? Contact us today to see how we can help!

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Putting Data into Context

At Transform Consulting Group, we are proud data nerds. Through our evaluation services, we help clients collect, analyze, and share meaningful data. In this blog post, we explained who to share your data with and why. In today’s post, we will go one step further by providing tips on how to present your data in a meaningful way. More specifically, we’ll discuss how to put your data in context and why it is important to do so.

Impact Image- blogWhen presenting your data, you shouldn’t share it in isolation. For example, an after school tutoring program might find that 75% of their students pass their required standardized tests. If the program shared this data point by itself, their audience might have a lot of unanswered questions, like:

  • How does this pass rate compare to other students who don’t receive tutoring services?
  • How does this rate compare to local and national data?
  • What standardized tests is the statistic referring to?

 

To avoid this problem and present their data it a meaningful way, it would be best for the tutoring program to cite outside data sources to provide comparison, credibility, and context. By including this additional information, the program could more fully illustrate their impact and outcomes.

We are currently working with the Center for Leadership Development to develop an evaluation plan. Through this process, we have helped them demonstrate their impact by presenting their data within context. Here are three tips we shared with them that can also help you use outside data sources to put your data into context.

1. Find credible data sources that add meaning to your data.

When citing outside data, it’s important to make sure the data is credible, accurate, and relevant to your organization’s work. When working with clients like CLD, we often provide a resource sheet listing different data sources they can cite for comparison and context. An example of a data source we shared with CLD is the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s College Readiness Dashboard. This was an appropriate choice because it is a reliable interactive data set that can be used to compare the outcomes CLD students experience to other students in their state and county in similar demographic groups. Check out this blog post for a list of our go-to data sources. This list may help you identify which data sources you can cite to move your organization forward.

2. Benchmark similar programs.

In a previous blog post, we explained that you may want to benchmark the practices of organizations similar to yours when making a programmatic change or looking to diversify your funding. Benchmarking can also be helpful when creating an evaluation plan and reporting your data. Looking at the outcomes of similar programs gives you comparable data to assess your program’s efficacy.

When working with CLD, we benchmarked similar programs such as College Bound in St. Louis. Their programming aims to help low-income students get into and graduate from college. Not only were they a similar program for CLD to compare their outcomes to, but they are also a great example of an organization who puts their data into context to make it more meaningful. For example, they compare their data to St. Louis Public School data and low-income students across the nation:

94% of College Bound students have matriculated to college immediately after high school, compared to 66% of St. Louis Public School graduates and only 51% of low-income graduates nationwide.

By presenting this statistic in the context of the students’ school system and other low-income students, College Bound is displaying the impact they are having and the success of their students relative to their peers.

3. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

We always tell clients to make sure they’re not trying to compare apples to oranges. This phrase refers to the comparison of items that aren’t really comparable. An example of this came up in our work with CLD when reporting their alumni’s postsecondary persistence rates. When comparing their persistence data to local and national data, we needed to make sure the outside data set was defining persistence in the same way they were. They define it as persisting from Freshman to Sophomore year of college. Other sources defined persistent students as those who were enrolled at any institution or had attained a degree 3 years after first enrolling. Therefore, these two data points aren’t really talking about the same thing and aren’t comparable. By finding the right data sources to compare your data to, you ensure that the data and context is meaningful.

If you need help presenting your data in a meaningful way and using it to make data-informed decisions, give us a call to see how we can help through this process!

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2018 Indy Big Data Conference Visualization Challenge Summary

Our TCG team recently presented at the Fifth Annual Indy Big Data Conference for the Visualization Challenge (read about some of our lessons learned here). This year’s challenge focused on improving Indiana’s talent pipeline and workforce. fullsizeoutput_3b6

Participating teams were provided several datasets to analyze and interpret, and then present to a panel of judges. Following the first round of presentations, the judges then awarded five teams the opportunity to present to 500+ conference attendees. Our TCG was one of those top five teams selected! Read more about the Visualization Challenge and data sets here: https://www.indybigdata.com/visualization-challenge/.

Our team used our Tableau expertise to create this interactive dashboard, and then we presented on our findings. The interactive dashboard addresses several key questions about the future of Indiana’s workforce and talent pipeline, including:

  1. What will be the top jobs in demand in 10 years?
  2. What is the education requirement for those top in demand jobs?
  3. What is the earning potential of those top in demand jobs?
  4. What is the return on investment on education for those top in demand jobs?

The following is a summary of TCG’s findings to these questions based on the data provided.

1. What will be the top jobs in demand in 10 years?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.03.45 AM

Indiana’s top projected jobs are found primarily in the healthcare, food service and business industry. TCG found that the top projected jobs in 10 years varies depending on how you look at the data. For example, Wind Turbine Service Technicians looks like the top in demand job, because of a 71% expected increase in positions in 10 years. However, when you look at the actual number of new jobs for Wind Turbine Service Technicians,  there are only 66 total positions expected to be added over 10 years. This is not actually enough individual positions to create new higher education programs to encourage individuals to pursue this career. In this visual chart, you can scroll down to see the top projected jobs and how they compare. Hover over the number for more information about that occupation.

2. What is the education requirement for those top in demand jobs?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.06.28 AM

The U.S. Census Bureau reports one-third of working adults ages 18-64 have an associate degree or higher. An additional 25% of this population have some education beyond high school. Interestingly, we found that six out of ten of the top 25 projected jobs only require a high school diploma. This doesn’t mean that we should stop encouraging young people to pursue higher education. Instead, the trend looks like the largest amount of new positions will be entry level or positions that do not immediately require an education beyond high school.

3. What is the earning potential of those top in demand jobs?

TCG created a box and whisker plot chart to show the earning potential by occupation. For all occupations the median annual salary is about $40,000. The top 25 projected jobs based on the number of new positions shows a median annual salary at $31,000 which is below the current median annual salary. Again, this somewhat relates to the education level requirements in the previous section. The largest increase in projected new jobs are not high earning jobs. Visit the interactive dashboard to explore the different wage levels, experience levels, and hourly rates of the projected top jobs.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.07.08 AM

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4. What is the return on investment on education for those top in demand jobs?

The costs of education can feel like a burden to individuals, especially when the costs drag on through student loans for several years. The average timeframe expected to pay off the cost of postsecondary education is over two years. Our TCG team was interested in calculating the return on investment (ROI) of pursuing higher education for the top 25 occupations. You can rank the list by the jobs with the highest and lowest ROI. The average ROI for all jobs is $1.4 million.

Recommendations

TCG made several recommendations from the data analyzed. (This list can also be viewed on the second tab in the interactive dashboard).

  1. Review employment projections in multiple ways, like reviewing the expected growth based on the number of new jobs and the percentage growth of new jobs (e.g., Wind Turbine Service Technicians example) to ensure informed decision making. This can assist with decision making when developing or removing educational degree or certification programs and when encouraging individuals to enter a certain field.
  2. Offer more certificates and associate degrees both independently and as a part of bachelor’s degree curriculum. It would align with required educational needs of the workforce, contribute to less debt for students, and help improve higher education completion rate.
  3. Increase partnerships with employers (like IU Health) to do more direct career pipelines and apprenticeship programs. This could also potentially reduce the student cost. For example, Graduate Assistant positions are partially funded by the organization that receives a graduate student.
  4. Include more experiential learning in degree programs. It would help the student decide if they are in the right major or explore a secondary interest. It could also get industries to partner with other majors/ disciplines. For example, get the “creatives” into STEM activities – increasing the workforce pipeline.
  5. Consider offering incentives to attract individuals in the top projected jobs, especially those jobs with a low ROI. Look at ways to make these jobs more attractive to meet the future workforce needs.

Learn more about the Indy Big Data Challenge in this article by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. At TCG, we are data nerds. Check out our research and analysis services, and learn how we can develop visual reports and dashboards to inform your decision-making and help you tell your story of impact.

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Your Project Is Feasible. Now How Do You Implement It?

You completed a feasibility study and found out that your project is feasible! Now it’s time for the work of actually implementing your project or new program. What are your next steps?

Your implementation plan will include 4 focus areas: program design, staff, communications/ marketing, and budget. Here are some specific action items to get you on your way to full implementation!

Program Design

A well-designed program will enable you to have the greatest possible impact. Your feasibility study helped you make sure that the elements of your program are informed by the outcomes you want to achieve. Now it’s time to purchase the necessary materials, including the curriculum, as well as necessary office and program supplies.

You will also want to have a method of evaluation in place from the start. You can set this up internally or hire an external evaluator. The evaluation process will help you adjust to changing needs and improve upon your practices. Decide on the process you will use, purchase a database if necessary, and write standard operating procedures for your staff.

Staff

You will likely be looking to hire and train new staff in order to fully implement your program. For this, you can rely in part on the information in your feasibility study. In addition, use what you and your leadership team have done in the past when hiring new staff.

Your feasibility study will help you determine how many staff to hire in your first year. During the first year, you will still be in the process of ramping up to full capacity. Then, determine how many staff are needed once you are operating your fully developed program. You might also work on partnerships with local higher education institutions, workforce boards, and other critical groups to support staffing your new program.

Communications and Marketing

You started developing partnerships with key stakeholders when you engaged them during your feasibility study. Continue to keep these partners informed and engaged as you make progress! During project implementation, you may want to form relationships with additional partners as well. These partnerships are an essential part of your overarching communications and marketing plan.

marketing-toolkitYour marketing strategies will be important as you build your program, begin program enrollment, and communicate its value to your prospective clients and the broader community. Your goals are to attract your target clients to your program, build community buy-in, and increase awareness of prospective donors of the positive impact of your program.

Start using the marketing tactics and timeline you identified in your feasibility study. Create a website, or add onto your existing website with information specific to this project. Send a press release to local media to announce your program launch. Create social media pages for your new program, or add the new information to your existing pages.

Budget

Use the information in your feasibility study to put together a detailed start-up budget. Remember to account for all your projected initial costs. Then, create a budget for each of your first 3 years of operation. For your first year, you will likely not build out your full model. To inform your year-one budget, determine how many clients it is feasible to serve in that first year before you have built up your program’s capacity. When filling in your budget for your second year, account for increases in revenue and expenses for operating at full capacity. As you look to year three, quantify projected changes you expect to see after two years of operation.

jay-county-feasibility-studyYou will set yourself up for success by budgeting for start-up expenses, as well as the changes you will see in the initial years of operation. As you identify the amount of revenue needed to implement your program, create a fund development action plan to secure sustainable funding.

We recently completed a feasibility study for early learning stakeholders in Jay County. Now they are sharing the study results with a broader array of partners. Then, they will determine how to get from where they are now to full program implementation. If you’re interested in completing a feasibility study or taking the the next step toward program implementation, we’d love to help! Contact us today!

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Getting the Most Out of Your Needs Assessment

Recently Transform Consulting Group finished the annual needs assessment for the Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office (IHSSCO).   Each Head Start State Collaboration Office is required to annually submit a needs assessment, which informs their strategic plan goals and objectives.  

IHSSCO uses their needs assessment to inform their annual work plan, and all organizations should make the connection between a needs assessment and the organization’s strategic goals!  Whether you want to conduct a needs assessment, program or organization evaluation, or annual report, don’t miss the chance to do one of the following:  

  1. Use your assessment to solicit new feedback or data.

The IHSSCO needs assessment solicited new feedback this year.  We interviewed and surveyed external stakeholders and Head Start partners.  If you’re going to request feedback, make sure you show you’re doing something with it.  No one likes to provide feedback, and then see that nothing changes. For Head Start partners and stakeholders, they will soon be able to read the needs assessment report and see the recommendations for solutions that address some of their feedback.

  1. Take the time to learn from your data.

Data is collected and reported on, but beyond totals and percentages, what does your data say?  What questions does it raise to inform your assessment and planning efforts? For example, we wanted to know:

  • How do Indiana Early Head Start and Head Start programs compare to national statistics?
  • Where are Early Head Start and Head Start centers located across the state, and is it proportionate to the population and need?  Image
  • What percentage of children are being served?  
  • Is there more of a demand for Early Head Start and Head Start in rural or urban areas?

Besides the demographics of your program participants and the outputs of a program, look for issues and barriers, gaps or overlap in services or clients, layer the data with other relevant indicators, and don’t forget to look at outcomes as well!

  1. Make sure you share the report – internally and externally.  

A needs assessment can take a great deal of time, effort, and resources from multiple individuals.  Once the process is completed, it is easy to do a quick review of the findings with program staff and then put it on the shelf.  The needs assessment report and its findings are not only important to program staff; it can also provide insight to all staff, program participants, funders, and external stakeholders/partners.  Check out this past blog for more ideas!

Make the report accessible and relevant.  Many people may only be interested in reading an executive summary of the report or skipping straight to the recommendations.  Others may be more attracted to infographics or dashboards. Decide how to best present your data for your audience, and then post these materials on your website, link to them in a newsletter, or mention them on social media.
If you’re ready to do things differently with your needs assessment but are not sure where to start, contact us today to discuss ways Transform Consulting Group can help!

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What is the Breakeven Point for Your Early Childhood Education Program?

For early childhood education programs, as well as other nonprofits, it is important to know the organization’s “breakeven point.” This is the point at which your expenses and revenue break even, meaning you have enough funding to run your program.breakeven-point

Operating a high-quality early childhood education program is expensive. Child Care Aware of America produced a report in 2017 called Parents and the High Cost of Care. This report discusses the aspects of high-quality programs that drive up the cost. It also acknowledges the gap between the cost of operating a program and the amount that families can afford to pay.

Often, program administrators cannot pass that entire expense on to families of young children because most families cannot afford the full cost. Child Care Aware of America finds that nationally, on average, married couples spend 10% of their income on child care for one child while single parents spend 36%. Therefore, many programs end up stitching together various funding streams in order to make it to their breakeven point.

At Transform Consulting Group, we’ve partnered with Early Learning Indiana on a project designed to improve the financial stability and sustainability of early childhood education programs. We’re currently working with 10 early childhood education programs in Indiana to help them access new funding streams and accomplish their financial goals.

For many programs, their financial goal was to improve their internal systems, procedures, and accounting practices. They did not know exactly how much they needed to bring in weekly, monthly, or annually to meet their financial obligations—let alone make any changes, such as increasing staff wages, expanding to serve more children, or implementing a scholarship or tuition assistance program.

For this project, we adapted a tool developed by First Children’s Finance that helps programs determine their breakeven point. This tool enables programs to determine the total expenses and revenue of their overall program. It also calculates the number of children they need to enroll in each classroom in order for each room to break even. If your program doesn’t already calculate your breakeven points, there are many reasons to start now!

Why Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

Calculating your breakeven point for your overall program and each classroom tells you whether or not your current levels of revenue truly cover all your expenses. Many early childhood education programs know that the tuition parents can afford to pay does not cover their costs, but they may not know what their true deficit is. Other programs know their overall annual surplus or deficit, but they don’t know how much revenue they need to break even in each classroom.

For example, it is more expensive to operate infant classrooms than preschool classrooms. If you calculate your breakeven points, you may learn that enrolling your preschool rooms at 90% of their capacity will cover the deficit in your infant rooms. Infant care is a significant need in most communities and therefore it is likely an important part of the mission of an early childhood education program. Because of this, programs accept the fact that they will have a deficit in those rooms, but now they can move forward with a plan to recoup their losses.

As in the example above, other types of nonprofits also need to be aware not only of their overall breakeven point, but also the breakeven points of their various programs. An after-school organization might run an arts program, a sports program, and an academic enrichment program. The after-school leadership team may learn that the arts program isn’t currently breaking even but scaling up the program would help the bottom line.

When Should You Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

Some organizations may decide to use a breakeven tool annually, updating it to provide a check on how they are budgeting. Another use of a breakeven tool is when an organization is considering a change like one of the following:

  • Moving to a different location with different space constraints
  • Expanding one or more existing programs
  • Adding a new program
  • Anticipating the loss of a particular funding source

One of the ten early childhood education programs we worked with during this project was Mt. Pleasant Child Development Center. They were excited to be able to use the breakeven tool as a check on how each of their classrooms’ breakeven points factor into their budget. They also wanted to use the information gleaned from the tool to determine how much funding they can reinvest in their staff benefits.

At TCG, we understand that performing this kind of financial assessment can be difficult and time-consuming. If your program needs support with evaluating your current budget or help with achieving your future goals, contact us today!

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